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Jean Quatremer; Migrants in Paris

French journalist admits that media ‘permanently hides ethnic origin’

Last year, on Friday, January 15, the show "28 minutes" on the French channel Arte, was back in the news. On this occasion, the program touched on the delicate question of the media's treatment of the mass aggression by migrants in Cologne.

Published: July 18, 2017, 10:02 am

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    Several days after the events, the media refused to link the obvious: in these sexual assaults, clandestines and migrants were mostly involved.

    But on programme of Arte, Jean Quatremer, a journalist at Libération said the French press, of which he himself is a member, “permanently hides the ethnic origin” of foreigners.

    “I remember an article, an absolutely extraordinary thing about a rotating affair in the Paris suburbs. All the names had been changed, which is done regularly, because identities are not yet known. They were all Alain, Frederic, Marcel, Maurice, except that in reality they were Mohammed, Ahmed, and so on,” Quatremer explained.

    The “Parisian bobos” or leftwing hipsters [Bobo is short for bourgeois and bohemian] regularly conceal the origin of the delinquents when they are foreign.

    “We ourselves [the French press] hide it, permanently, it is an element [ethnic origin] that is not given,” he confessed publicly.

    For fear of “discriminating”, but also to be able to continue to praise their model of an open society, journalists prefer to obscure or change the facts and everyone, in this small environment, seems perfectly satisfied to do so.

    Everyone, starting with Quatremer, the man who himself in March 2015 in the name of “democracy” wanted to establish a “sanitary media cordon” around the Front National, the most popular party in France. The same journalists who are constantly giving lessons about journalism to the whole world and criticising media manipulation in Russia or elsewhere, don’t mind obscuring facts.

    Quatremer, who lives in Brussels reporting for Libération, said that the FN was a “fascist party” and not republican and that he “would face a court” for saying so, a preposterous notion anyway in the sense that he faced absolutely no legal consequences for advancing his leftist cause.

    On the same set, the writer and publisher Charles Dantzig was not moved by the incredible public confession by Quatremer of openly declared media bias. In fact, he added instead: “We should prevent populism from waking up.”

    To Dantzig anything that goes against the journalistic vision of his own small world should be censored because even a simple truth might “awaken” the voters.

    But if there is a risk that they will wake up, had voters been previously asleep?

    To keep the voters on their sleeping medication, the EU launched a media prize at the beginning of the year to promote “journalism on evidence-based migration”.

    Based on the observation that “the current discourse on migration has taken a dramatically negative turn in the last decade in Europe and elsewhere” and that “media coverage of migratory phenomena plays an important role in shaping public opinion”, the organisers of this prize have the objective of “reinforcing the positive role that the media can play in influencing the current narrative of migration”.

    This competition will bring together 72 stories that can be used and disseminated through shared copyrights. The prize-giving ceremony took place “under the auspices of the Maltese Presidency of the European Union”.

    The European Journalist Center is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation, which aims to ensure coverage for eighteen months of the arrival and integration of migrant families. Four major European newspapers will participate in the operation, Le Monde, the English daily Guardian, the Spanish daily El Pais and the German weekly Der Spiegel.

    According to Le Monde, “the project is part of deepening our coverage of migration issues”. The Director of the European Journalism Center said on the EJC website that “with 10 national elections in 2017 on the continent, projects of this scale are vital”.

    The angle of the articles published within the framework of these initiative, exposing “life stories”, aims to develop empathy vis-à-vis migrants.

    The European Union is therefore using the carrot to influence an increasingly reluctant public opinion to welcome massive immigration into a Europe with 21.4 million unemployed and 29 million working poor. But it also wields the stick, as France Soir reported on 2 March: “The European Commission has tightened its tone on Thursday against the EU member states by threatening sanctions against those who refuse to accept refugees.”

    Migrants’ stories are increasingly numerous in the media and public space: in addition to the initiative of the 4 major European newspapers, the Télégramme reports on 5 March that volunteers have succeeded in Rennes taking down 400 testimonies of migrants in 24 hours. On March 8, Arte presented in a documentary the portrait of three women who chose France.

    These stories can contribute information on current migrations to European countries, but monographs, touching as they are, can not summarize the different dimensions of reception of migrants. This type of survey, frequently used in sociology, raises two problems, according to the sociologist J.C. Passeron, cited in an article devoted to qualitative research:

    – “The narrative of life is meant to be exhaustive and above all to signify, giving the impression of understanding everything, at the risk of eliminating any theoretical approach to describe the problem studied.

    – The risk is great to yield to the illusion of what the sociologist calls “panpertinence”: everything is relevant and makes sense, the world can not be described.”

    “Asylum seekers” arriving in France – 100 000 in 2016 according to Le Figaro – almost never return to their countries even if they are rejected. These events could give credence to the idea of an out-of-control situation so mainstream journalists rarely report on them.

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